Editor’s note: This is part of our feature on Concordia’s professor Tobin Beck and The Sower’s adviser Ellen Beck reporting on Hurricane Andrew in 1992. This article was originally published by UPI on Aug. 24, 1992.
by Ellen Beck
The American Red Cross, operating despite a $33 million deficit, opened shelters for tens of thousands of people Monday and prepared to assess damage and award rebuilding money to victims of Hurricane Andrew.
Andrew blasted South Florida early in the day, hitting about 25 miles south of Miami and cutting a wide swath through the peninsula on its way west toward a rendezvous with the Gulf of Mexico.
The hurricane packed sustained winds of 145 mph and even larger occasional outbursts reaching 164 mph.
The Red Cross in Florida opened 281 shelters in two dozen counties and accommodated 83,122 people Sunday night and into Monday as the hurricane moved through the area, said spokeswoman Sharon Akinde. Another 70 shelters were ready to open if needed.
The shelters were manned with 1,632 volunteers from South Florida and from as far away as Minnesota, Oklahoma, New York and Kansas.
Additionally, 25 Red Cross emergency response vehicles from chapters across the nation were en route to Florida. They are mobile feeding units that provide food and beverages to stranded people and emergency workers.
”The minute the hurricane became more of a reality than a threat, the Red Cross set up shelters and moved tons of emergency supplies and relief personnel to a staging area in Orlando,” said Mid-America Chapter Spokesperson Randi Killian in Chicago.
Red Cross Director Elizabeth Dole was expected in Miami Monday afternoon to tour the area and a Red Cross shelter.
Akinde said more volunteers were needed for the next phase of Red Cross relief, assessing the damage and making sure victims get money for repairs and essential personal goods.
”This comes at a time when the disaster relief fund is $33 million in deficit,” Akinde said. ”We started a fund drive but we’ve only raised $8 million.”
Akinde said the Red Cross would borrow from Peter to pay Paul and tap its blood bank funds to cover the disaster expenses.
”We’ve had back to back disasters. Somehow it’s always worked out,” she said. ”It’s done so for 104 years.”
Akinde said the Red Cross in South Florida was looking for volunteers who could survey damage sites, interview families and determine how much money was needed.
The Red Cross allocates money for any variety of reasons and needs, including food, medication, basic furniture and clothing, shelter and housing repairs.
She said the agency gives out anywhere from $100 for food to $2,000 for structure repair.
Akinde said blood donation collection was suspended but was expected to resume next week. She stressed there was enough blood available for any necessary surgery. Blood supplies were sent in from other states and some had arrived by noon Monday.